The number of foreign students in UK universities has skyrocketed over the past ten years. Approximately 300,000 Indian, Chinese and American international students currently study at universities in the UK. In fact, between 2020 and 2021, the UK hosted over 600,000 international students from around the globe! Today, we are looking at UK universities with the most international students. Let's see if any of them are the right option for you!
UK Universities with the Highest Numbers of International Students
The prestigious universities in the UK continue expanding their international boundaries and becoming global centres of higher education. The number of international students studying in UK universities has grown by more than 50% since 2012. In 2018, there were more than 1.2 million international students in the UK. These students come from over 180 countries and represent over 125 nationalities, including Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and Korean students.
There are many reasons why a university attracts international students. This can include the reputation of the university, the host city, the country of origin of international students, and many other factors that make the institution attractive to international students.
Suppose you're interested in studying at one of these great universities. Looking into the international student population is often an excellent place to start. After all, a diverse global community indicates the university has the resources to cater to a large international student base. As an international student, you may feel at ease knowing that you’re not the only fish out of water in a new country.
Today we will help you learn about the UK universities with the most international students and cover why these universities are the right fit for you.
Why is the UK So Popular with International Students?
The UK is a great destination for international students, with many universities offering high-quality education and a rich cultural experience. The country has one of the longest histories of hosting international students too. Significant figures of history, like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, travelled across the world for their education here.
Today, hundreds of thousands of international students continue to follow in their footsteps. The cities of London and Manchester are two of the most dynamic cultural hubs in the world today.
Students who choose to study in this country will find that they have access to a wide variety of opportunities, such as living in one of the most culturally dynamic cities on earth – which makes studying here an ideal gateway into Europe too! There are several reasons why the UK is so popular with international students:
1. Superior Quality Education
You will be able to get a top-class education. The United Kingdom also has many internationally renowned institutions, including Oxford University, Cambridge University, Imperial College London, and more than 150 other higher education providers.
The reputation of UK universities is well known, with many ranked as world leaders in research and innovation. Times Higher Education and QS Top Universities consistently place an impressive number of UK universities among the top 100 worldwide.
In fact, one of the criteria that both organizations consider for their rankings is the institute’s internationality! UK universities primarily offer courses in English, making it easier for international students who have been learning the language for some time during their studies.
A degree from a UK university gives you an immediate advantage. For starters, you may be able to graduate and start working sooner - an undergraduate degree in the UK lasts around three years, compared to four-year programs in the USA and Canada. Overall, this might be more cost-effective while also letting you pursue further education or career opportunities sooner.
Because of the global recognition of the quality of a UK education, employers will also consider your degree as a guarantee of your potential to add value to your organization!
2. Unique Cultural Experience
The UK is a multicultural society of many ethnicities, races, and religions. As such, you can learn about and experience new cultures through your university studies and living in such a diverse community. You will also meet people from different backgrounds who share your interests in the arts, sports, or politics or show you a different perspective you may not have accessed otherwise.
These are experiences you won’t be able to enjoy in your own backyard. Learning from and about people from all over the world will help you grow into a true global citizen. Your horizons will broaden and this outlook will not only enrich your life but also make you a valuable player on a globalized professional platform.
Nine times out of ten, the UK’s multiculturalism also means you won’t be too far from a piece of the home yourself. Being able to order familiar food or join in on the festivities of holidays you celebrated at home can help you settle into a new place.
It’s always good to know that you’re not the only one figuring out living in a foreign country by yourself. Whether you’re trying out good spots to grab lunch between classes, wrangling bus timetables, or tracking the closest farmer’s market for fresh and affordable groceries, it’s always easier and more enjoyable when there are others on the same page as you.
3. Broad Variety of Programs
UK universities can offer over 600-degree programs for international students. These cover various subjects, including business management, computer science and engineering technology, law, medicine, psychology, etc.
Alongside these highly in-demand fields, you can also access opportunities to study top-tier programs in more specialized fields. Whether you want to pursue archaeology, fine arts, evolutionary science, or any sub-branch of a broader discipline, you will likely find an excellent program in a UK university offering that very course.
The best part is these programs are built with industry needs in mind. This means that alongside getting the right know-how, you will also access the right opportunities to build a career in your field of interest. These are opportunities you might not have access to at home - another reason the UK is such a popular destination for international students
4. Living in One of the World's Most Culturally Dynamic Cities
The UK is one of the most visited countries, with over 65 million visitors yearly. It is also one of the most culturally dynamic countries and has many exciting places to visit. London has over 300 museums, galleries, 50 theatres, and 100 concert venues.
There are also more than 1,000 restaurants that cater to every taste imaginable! You can easily find good accommodation for you here - many universities have special arrangements for international students on- and off-campus.
The UK is home to many international students who come here because they want an exciting place where they can meet new people worldwide. Thanks to the location, you’ll also find it easier to explore the rest of Europe in between your studies.
Top Applicants from Non-EU Countries
Top-ranking universities in the UK attract students from many countries. During 2020–21, the overall number of non-EU students increased by 10.6%. The top three nationalities progressing on to the graduate route are Chinese (141,475), Indian(79,745) and Nigerian (20,925), making up almost 58% of all accepted applications.
- China: The number of Chinese students applying to UK universities has risen by almost 50% from 2016 to 2021. This is largely due to an increase in universities offering varsity courses for international students.
- India: Over the past five years, there has been a significant increase of Indian students by 67,660. In 2021, 19% of all international students will be from India.
- Nigeria: In terms of enrollments from outside the EU, Nigerian students come in third. Nigerian applicants have increased over the last two years - up by 26%.
- Others: Over the previous five years, the number of students from the USA and Malaysia has gradually decreased. The number of students from Malaysia has fallen by 30%. On the other side, Pakistan has seen progress. New enrollments increased across the board by 62.1%.
Most Popular Programs for International Students
From 2019–21, business and management, engineering and technology, and social sciences courses drew the most international students. In business and management, engineering and technology, and social studies, the ratio of international students is 42.9%, 39.5%, and 21.8%, respectively:
|Programs ||Undergraduate||Graduate |
|Business and Management ||73,085 ||85,205 |
|Engineering and Technology ||32,480 ||27,715 |
|Social Science ||26,715 ||21,615 |
|Computer Science|| 19,800 ||24,445 |
|Medicine ||15,803 ||10,920|
| Law ||14,570 ||8,535 |
|Architecture ||6,430 ||8,035 |
|Mathematics ||8,425 ||5,755 |
|English Language and Literature|| 8,105 ||5,955 |
|Education and Teaching ||1,840 ||8,975|
The Top 10 UK Universities with the Most International Students
The UK has more than 90 universities and specialized institutes that accept international students in various subjects. In 2020-21, around 605,130 overseas students enrolled at UK institutions. Of them, 152,905 were from the EU and 452,225 came from other countries. The top 10 universities with the most international students are:
|University ||Non-UK Students|| Non-EU Students |
|University College London (UCL) ||23,360|| 17,945 |
|The University of Manchester ||14,465|| 17,625 |
|King's College London|| 10,905|| 15,550|
| Coventry University ||9,960 ||13,760|
| The University of Sheffield ||9,800 ||11,260 |
|The University of Leeds|| 8,970 ||10,455 |
|University of Hertfordshire ||8,690 ||9,725|
| University of the Arts, London ||8,280 ||11,230|
| The University of Birmingham ||8,085 ||9,530|
| Imperial College London ||7,965 ||11,265|
1. University College London (UCL)
UCL is one of the best universities in the United Kingdom and the fact the whole world. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the QS World University Rankings place it in the top 10 universities of the world.
Many international students choose to attend UCL because of its excellent education standards. The university leads in several subject fields, with a QS WUR Subject Ranking of #11. Keep in mind that UCL has a high program application rate, but with the correct help, dedication, and preparation, you can improve your chances of admission.
UCL students come from around 100 different countries around the world. 39% of the student population are international students, including China (22%), India (20%), and Nigeria (18%).
2. The University of Manchester
Manchester is the third most popular university in the UK, with a student population of over 200,000. More than 40% of its students are from overseas. The institution comprises students from over 160 countries, all of whom are striving for academic excellence! Most of the international students are from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
According to data from 2011–16, 27% (10,965) of the university's students are from outside of Europe, while 7% (2,785) are students from other European nations. The University of Manchester's International Student Centre (ISC) provides information about studying here, along with guidance on applying for funding and support services.
3. King's College London
One of the oldest universities in the UK, King's College London, is one of the top universities in the country as well as the world. This university's degrees are well-known, especially in the humanities, law, social sciences, and international affairs. Among its contributions to life as we know, it includes the discovery of the DNA’s structure and research that made television, radio, and mobile phone developments possible.
The university has an enrolment of about 24,000 students from over 120 different countries worldwide and more than 6,000 postgraduate students from more than 140 other countries. The ratio of international students at King's College London is exceptionally high, with 12% coming from the EU and 28% from non-EU nations.
4. Coventry University
Coventry University is a public research university. The university has two campuses, one in the city centre of Coventry and a second campus in Warwick. The university's strong reputation for research attracts high numbers of international students, who comprise 14% of its student body.
In fact, Coventry University has been the five-time #1 institution in the UK for international student experience, according to HESA data! During 2015-16, 1,098 international students from over 100 countries were studying on the university’s campuses - making it one of Britain's top universities for internationalization!
Another contributor to the university's popularity is its focus on producing job-ready graduates. Coventry’s Talent Team supports you through admissions through to graduation and even beyond.
With thorough career support covering everything from bulletproof CVs to accessing graduate job opportunities, the CU also ranks as one of the top modern universities for career prospects, according to the Guardian University Guide (2021-22).
5. The University of Sheffield
The University of Sheffield has an undergraduate population of around 21,000 students and offers courses across seven faculties: Engineering, Humanities; Science & Social Sciences; Business & Management; Law School; Medical School, and Veterinary Medicine.
The university has over 29,000 international students from over 150 countries enrolled in its courses yearly – making it one of the most popular universities for international students in the UK.
The University of Sheffield's student body is particularly diverse: 5% of undergraduates come from an EU country, while 32% are non-EU citizens. 6% are non-white ethnic minorities, and 2% have disabilities or special needs.
6. The University of Leeds
One of the largest higher education institutions in the UK is the University of Leeds. Students at Leeds have access to many facilities and services that help them develop their skills and connect with potential employers.
Postgraduate students can enroll in teaching or research degrees, including programs in law, business studies, and medicine. They can also choose from various undergraduate courses such as humanities (history or language), science (biology or physics), or social science disciplines such as economics or politics.
Over 39,000 students attend the institution, comprising over 36,500 full-time, 2,400 part-time, 28,300 undergraduates, and 10,700 postgraduate students. Including exchange students, the university has nearly 13,400 international students from 137 different nations. 4% of them are from the EU, and 24% are non-EU students.
7. University of Hertfordshire
Students from around the world are welcome at the University of Hertfordshire. It has approximately 25,130 students as of 2021, including over 5,200 international students from 100 countries.
This makes the University of Hertfordshire one of the top UK universities with the most international students. It has a very diversified student body: 29% of students are non-EU citizens, compared to 3% from EU nations.
The university offers over 200 courses from undergraduate to postgraduate level, along with a wide range of research opportunities. It also has a strong reputation for its science and engineering courses.
8. University of the Arts, London
University of the Arts London is one of the most popular specialized universities in the UK. The university has over 21,092 students from 130 countries enrolled at its six Colleges throughout the UK. The university offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art, design, fashion, and architecture.
University of the Arts, London, ranks at #2 in the world’s best Art & Design institutions according to QS World University Subject Rankings. Several organizations have named it one of the greatest universities in Europe for the arts as well. The University of the Arts is on the list of the top 100 UK institutions with the most international students. 14% of the student body is from the EU and 39% are non-EU students.
9. The University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is the most popular in the UK for international students. It is also one of the most prestigious institutions, with an impressive history and reputation. As one of the Russell Group of universities, it is well-known for its academic standards and graduate employability.
The University of Birmingham embraces diversity and offers a warm, inclusive atmosphere, with over 10,000 international students enrolling from 150 countries. Regarding subject choice: Business and Management, as well as Science and Engineering, are popular subjects at Birmingham.
10. Imperial College London
Since its establishment, Imperial College London has been one of the top universities worldwide. It is one of the most prestigious institutions in the UK and one of the greatest universities in the world.
ICL offers science, engineering and medicine courses to undergraduate students from around 150 countries worldwide. The institution has more than 30 000 students from over 100 countries at all levels. Out of Imperial's 60% international enrolment, 15% of its students come from EU countries, and 37% come from non-EU countries.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it challenging for non-UK citizens to enrol in a university in the UK?
No. The vast majority of universities in the UK provide a warm welcome to international students. In fact, the admission rate for international students is higher than for domestic students.
What are the prerequisites for international students to attend UK universities?
While the course prerequisites may vary by institution, all international students must submit a transcript, resume, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and confirmation of English language proficiency test score. You can apply through UCAS.
Our Concluding Thoughts
As you can see, plenty of universities in the UK are attracting students from around the world. With the country’s long history of immigration and hosting international students, as well as its fantastic standards of education, this isn’t surprising. In this article, we are spotlighting just some of the UK universities with the most international students. If you're considering applying to one of these institutions, research the admissions process to get into the right program for your goals!